Looking On

Looking On

gaudentque tuentes
Dardanidae, veterumque agnoscunt ora parentum.
Aeneid V. 575-6

More than pleasure, more than entertainment,
the intensity of looking on.
The youth compete—it’s field day—and their parents,
watching, recognize familiar features
of those who came before. Three generations,
all of them voyagers through space and time.
Old city to new city
(these games an interlude en route, a respite):
those in midlife whose sons ride, wrestle, shoot;
the sons themselves, whom the spectators cheer;
and finally, these being funeral games
in honor of Anchises, Aeneas’ father,
the elders, some of whom will not reach Italy—
those forebears’ faces, those familiar features.

Each time my father used to take me to the playground,
we would see other fathers, other mothers
intently watching as their little children
(I was little too) climbed, slid, and swung,
proud; rejoicing in the recognition
of familiar features; worrying –
all three. If any eyes could ever reach
out like arms and grab a little body
as it fell, these parents’ eyes would do it.
“See?” my father would say.
“He’s saying to his little girl, ‘Be careful.’
The language doesn’t matter. All the fathers
and mothers here are saying the same thing.”

He pointed out the pattern from which we
were not exempt. When I slid down the slide
or when my father pushed me on the swing,
he said “Be careful” like the other fathers;
but not before he taught me he and I
were part of something bigger than our dyad;
were figures in a pattern
that stretched in both directions, back and forth,
Ascanius to Aeneas to Anchises,
all of us voyagers in space and time,
the little girl, the father
old enough to be her grandfather,
Riverside Park, Troy, Rome.